Icy silences and awkward gazes… everyone expecting the other to get something started. But words rarely flow, and conversations meet dead ends with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ or a frozen smile.
Believe it or not, the art of conversation is rarely innate and is further waning into the background with the progression of rampant digital interactions.
In fact, the majority of people these days are oblivious of how to keep a conversation going without getting seriously distressed or making others uncomfortable at some point or the other.
Keeping a conversation alive, entertaining and enlightening, not only requires practice but also calls for individuals to maneuver around a number of potential barriers like…
- Introverted personality
- Social anxiety
- Lack of common ground
- Ideological / lifestyle barriers so on and so forth
The good news is irrespective of how lacking your conversational skills might be; a little help is all you need to powwow like a pro.
Your Armory to Keep A Conversations Going
Before learning how to keep a conversation going, it is necessary to acquaint yourself with your armory. This usually includes:
- A warm and genial smile on your face.
- Surface knowledge on current affairs and everything happening in your social circle.
- General information on other guests attending the event / party / get-together.
- A few stories that you would like to bring up when things start to dull out.
- A genuinely curious mind to learn about others and share about your life as well.
How To Keep A Conversation Going with 12 Easy Tips
Meet and greet with open-ended questions
‘A Meaningful Question Starts A Meaningful Conversation’
Starting a meaningful conversation is easy when open-ended questions are asked. By easy definition, these are questions that need more than monosyllables to be answered.
For example, instead of asking… ‘How have you been, which can be answered in as little as ‘All well, thanks’… you can ask instead, ‘Hi… great to catch up with you again… How far have you progressed with your painting since we last met?’
With open-ended questions, you can leave ample room for open-ended responses from the person you are interacting with. This will keep your conversation going for a considerable time without facing uncomfortable pauses.
2 Questions at a Time
‘Conversations are priceless; Interrogation though is intimidating.’
You may have done your homework and prepared your questionnaire, but you’re always better off not asking any more than two questions at a time.
Question after question is seldom a conversation. It is interrogation, and no one likes it. You must leave some room for others to respond and show some intent to learn about you.
All’s Well With Likeable / Fun Topics
‘Fun in your conversation is like the cherry on your cake.’
The matter of likability of topics is always debatable. For example, you may be moved by the ongoing global debate on ‘Freeing Armpit Hair’ (which is perfectly ok) and may want to plate it up for discussion in a social event. But, mixed reactions from your social circle can dull your spirits for the rest of the evening.
So, if you wish to stay on the safer side of things, it is best to stick with generally acceptable high-energy topics like hobbies, career, latest vacations, interests, food, etc. These are subjects that everyone can relate to and thus are very comfortable to chat about.
Choose Laughter Over Gossip
‘A Smile is a Curve That Sets Everything Straight.’– Phyllis Diller
Whether you crack a joke or take a graceful fall at the banquet followed with a confident bow to end the unexpected show, if you leave people in splits for whatever reason, be rest assured that everyone will love to have you around more than you think.
If you are blessed with a funny bone, be confident to release your practical witticism to break awkward silences as and when they arise.
Distance Yourself from Controversial Subjects
‘Pick a weight that you can carry. Else it will bring you to your Knees.’
Sometimes, being diplomatic help. Strong opinions on current affairs, religion, food choice and lifestyle, politics, etc. seldom feed smooth conversations.
In fact, they can spark heated debates that can make an otherwise genial ambiance hostile and uncomfortable.
Given that there is always a fair possibility that you may not be able to carry on with what you started, it is always better to distance yourself from controversial topics and maintain a strict middle path if you find yourself being dragged into it.
Keep Stories Handy
‘An excerpt from the page of your life is often more enthralling than current affairs.‘
The time when your huskies decided to take their own route while sledging in Norway, or the time when you made it all the way to work without a penny in your wallet, or when you saved a pup from abusive owners.
Genuine stories from genuine people are always the best ice breakers in decelerating conversations.
Pro Tip: While it may be tempting, it is best not to decorate your stories with creative untruths. Sooner or later, people will find out, and it may not be a pleasant experience to face them later.
Blurting is Often Followed by Regrets
‘Look Before You Leap, Think Before You Speak… because both can throw you off the cliff‘!’
Words are like bullets. Once they are out, they cannot be withdrawn.
I have come across a number of articles on ‘conversations’ that are promoting ‘blurting,’ but if you really wish to keep yourself from putting your foot in your mouth, it will be in your best interest to think a little before you speak.
By the simplest definition, Blurting is speaking your unfiltered thoughts out loud, which may not be a good idea when everyone is at earshot. For all you know, people don’t forget insults and embarrassments very easily.
Pro Tip: Never be too tempted to speak ill of others at the heat of the moment or leak their secrets that they may have trusted on you.
Never Criticize or Correct
‘Criticisms and Corrections Feed Debates, not Conversations.‘
They may insist that the Earth is Flat, and you may feel the urge to get them by their ears and run them through the ball and candle experiment, but HALT! Don’t!
These are moments when the strategy of deflection will be your best friend. Say instead, ‘if that were to be true, my cat would have pushed everything off the edge by now.’ Lol
Pro Tip: Agree and Disagree with nothing. Remember, you are conversing for fun and not to prove a point.
Silence is Golden
‘Let Listening Save The Day.‘
When in a social gathering, the burden of keeping a conversation going is not entirely upon your shoulders. Everyone here is an equal participant, and everyone should put in their bit to keep the conversation flowing.
Therefore, if you find yourself being silent for a while, remember, ‘this is absolutely OK.’
‘Listening’ is an integral part of conversations, and sadly these days, there are not many people who listen to what others have to say.
So, if anyone points out that you have been quiet for a while, respond confidently by saying, ‘I was so engrossed in what you were saying,’ and your silence will be deeply respected.
Take Short Breaks
‘Blabbering Depletes Conversational Creativity.‘
Ever wondered how to keep a conversation going when you have run out of things to say, but the event requires you to carry on with a smile on your face and words in your mouth?
While most people resort to blabbering at this point, this only leads to further energy depletion and clogs meaningful subjects in your brain.
The Solution is to take time out to refresh your brain with momentary tranquility.
Take a puff or meditate in the washroom, get yourself 5 minutes of me-time, and watch your Conversational Creativity come alive soon after.
‘Never axe your own foot with assumptions.’
There may be people in a social event that may look like they are not interested in what you have to say or are generally disinclined to engage in a conversation with you.
While it is true that this is an unfriendly gesture, it is best not to build an ice wall assuming that they don’t like you or you are unwelcome in the event.
For all you know, they may be going through the same conversational crisis as you.
It is wrong to assume that they are snooty and are deliberately ignoring you when all they are doing is trying to fit in.
If you find yourself stuck in similar situations, try making the first move with general topics of interest.
Confidence is the Key
‘Walk into the Ballroom like you own it… Let everyone wonder if you’re the Empress.’
Conversation sans Confidence is the route to awkward silences and dead ends. Be confident about what you speak, how you speak, and who you speak with. Not everyone is perfect, and not everyone is judging you.
No one will remember the event second by second and what you may have said or blurted, word by word.
What they will remember, though, is how you carried yourself and how you made others feel. If you were…
- genuinely interested in speaking with them
- learning about them,
- sharing bits and pieces of your life with them and
- were respectful of their ideas / way of living / interests etc.
…be rest assured no one can understand how to keep a conversation going better than you.